Riverside County on Monday encouraged residents 25 and younger to get tested for the coronavirus, even if they aren’t experiencing symptoms.
Health officials say they’re asking younger people to get screened for free at a publicly run site because they believe they’ve been underrepresented in testing so far. It’s important all age groups get tested to help determine the extent of the virus’ spread, county public health director Kim Saruwatari said in a news release.
Those 18 and under account for about a quarter of the county’s population, but only 6.6% of those screened at the four county-run testing sites, officials said.
“We would like to get a more complete picture of the illness as it has spread among young people,” Saruwatari said in a statement. “This will helps us better understand who in the community has the disease and how it might be moving among children and families.”
About 73,000 people have been tested for the virus so far in Riverside County, including at private clinics and hospitals. As of Monday, nearly 5,200 of them had tested positive, and 217 deaths had been linked to COVID-19.
But positive cases have only been identified in 248 people age 18 or younger, including 53 children under age 5.
There are now 12 testing locations in Riverside County, including those run by the state. Anyone can get an appointment, including those without symptoms, though parent permission is required for minors.
The county operates four drive-thru locations in Indio, Perris, Riverside and Lake Elsinore. Call 800-945-6171 to schedule an appointment.
The state also has eight walk-up sites, in Perris, Norco, Riverside, Mecca, Desert Hot Springs, Beaumont and Hemet. To make an appointment at one of these locations, visit lhi.care/covidtesting or call 888-634-1123.
“Testing is for everyone, regardless of immigration status or insurance, and it is free,” County Board of Supervisors Chair V. Manuel Perez said in a statement. “Testing has been expanded to be available for those with and without symptoms, and we encourage our young people to get themselves tested at one of our many testing sites.”